A trio of fatted flies hovers over a small, vile-smelling mass next to the side of the Trigo house. They remind me of vultures circling over the remains of some poor animal composed of pizza boxes, plastic bags and other assorted garbage.
Valerie Sweatt, the manager of the company from which I rent, points to the refuse and tells me that this kind of stuff isn’t too uncommon.
The door to the apartment stands cracked. The previous tenants didn’t return their keys, which means the doors will require new locks – an instant tenant charge.
The apartment isn’t thrashed, but it looks like it’s covered in a fine layer of that gunk you get on your stove once you’ve cooked too many pots of spaghetti and several vats of chili con carne. It’s difficult to understand how anyone could convince themselves to live in such a mess.
The bathroom is the worst. A thick sheet of black muck covers the bottom of the shower. The shower doors, which I imagine once allowed for some light to filter through the frosted surface, have a coating of brown soap scum down their length.
The toilet looks like the cleanest thing in the room, however I don’t dare inspect it for fear of some unseen biohazard.
Val laughs at me as I leave the bathroom with my arms tucked into body as tightly as I can get them.
But she understands. If there were any such thing as architectural syphilis, then this place has it in spades. I feel bad for the cleaning woman I met earlier that day.
Val reassured me later that this isn’t the worst she’s seen in her 19 years working in property management in Isla Vista.
“It’s very dirty,” she said, “but it’s not gross.”
Of the different properties Val walked me through, this house was the dirtiest. All the other properties fluctuated between slightly messy, a little dust and a small hole here and there, to sparkling clean.
These apartments paint a different portrait than the stereotypical reckless students adrift in a sea of other peoples’ property. Beneath the loud parties and normal wear and tear, students are a lot more responsible than others think.
Val finds that the rising care tenants show has to do with both increases in communication between property managers, landlords and tenants as well as innate sense of responsibility among students.
It’s been awhile since she’s used the word “gross” and meant it, and even longer since she’s seen one of her properties maliciously trashed out.
This means nothing but good things for property managers and tenants alike. It’s less work all around and usually translates into bigger returns in terms of security deposits.
Even the repulsive Trigo house was more a victim of neglect than destructive tendencies. The slightest bit of effort can make a world of difference when it comes time for tenants to get that check in the mail.
A thorough vacuuming after move out reduces the tenant charge for carpet cleaning by a little less than half.
If you want to see the majority of your deposit returned, there are a lot of simple things you can do. Some of the biggest tools that property management companies use during move out inspections are the senses of touch and smell.
Val runs her hands along nearly every surface in her properties. It’s a disgusting way to find all of the dirt, soap scum and vile grime that escapes the eye and is incredibly useful when the building has no electricity. At a DP apartment, Val held up her fingers for me to inspect after she dragged them along the wall of a shower.
A thick layer of white and black smears coated the soft pad of each digit.
“Lime Away will take care of that,” she said.
If you’ve put a lot of holes in your walls, leave it to the professionals to patch.
One of the apartments had a wall that looked plagued by albino measles. The shoddy spackling required a coat of paint for the entire wall, a more costly procedure than a few quick touch-ups.
Use your nose as well. Mold and urine give off distinct odors and each can be easily taken care of with a little scrubbing and the right cleaning chemicals.
If you’re not sure what will work best, ask your property manager. Val hands out a packet of information on cleaning supplies along with an itemized price list from a professional cleaning company.
When it comes time to move into your new apartment, make sure the management company has done its job first. If the place is a mess, shut the door and contact the manager or landlord as soon as possible. Settle into a Motel 6 and wait it out.
Otherwise, you can either clean it yourself or learn to live in filth.
“By moving into the mess, you accept the conditions and you own it,” Val said.
At the end of the first of day of checking out apartments, I told Val how surprised I was about the clean apartments and how easy it seemed to get your security deposit back. She told me it’s all about looking at things with new eyes and putting in the time and effort to clean up your own mess.
While I felt disappointed that I didn’t get to see a ravaged apartment with rotting meat in the walls, I went back to my place with a little more respect for the people I share this community with.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus opinion editor.